November 22, 2012
Ahead of Thanksgiving, President Obama traditionally pardoned a Thanksgiving turkey, and although last year’s president-pardoned turkey was euthanized ahead of the holiday, this year’s turkey has a lot for which to be thankful. For one, it isn’t a military-aged male in a Muslim country.
While Obama continues the annual White House gimmick of pardoning a Thanksgiving turkey, many on his secret drone kill list are not so lucky. As The New York Times reported last year, the president maintains a secret kill list of suspected terrorists that has included American citizens and even a 17-year-old girl. This state-sponsored global assassination program does not include any due process, nor does it go through any checks and balances. Obama has declared himself judge, jury, and executioner.
With this kill list came Obama’s redefinition of “militant”: now all military-aged males in a strike zone are officially considered militants by our government, relegating the term to little more than meaningless mainstream media propaganda. The Atlantic Wire headline, “Another U.S. Drone Strike Kills Militants in Yemen” even used the term to describe Anwar al-Awalaki’s teen American son who, by all accounts, had committed no crime when he was struck down by a U.S. drone two weeks after another U.S. drone strike killed his father.
Just weeks ago, three more “suspected terrorists” were killed in three separate U.S. drone strikes in a single day in Yemen; it was the fourth for the month in that county, bringing the total “militants” killed in Yemen in October to at least 19. In Pakistan, another U.S. drone strike killed a woman and wounded two men on October 24.
According to Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik, 80 percent of people killed in American strikes in his country are completely innocent civilians, including women and children. Malik contends that U.S. drones have killed thousands of innocent people and hundreds of children in Pakistan alone. This potential horror was further confirmed by a Stanford and New York University study released in September which found that only a mere two percent of people killed in America’s drone war can even be considered actual militants.
As drone strikes increase, the U.S. military has admitted it is quickly becoming overwhelmed trying to keep up with all the data analysis. There is worry about a decline in quality control. Systems are becoming more and more automated to help cope with the vastly uneven ratio between intelligence footage to analyze and human personnel to analyze it. As the U.S. ramps up combat strikes across the Middle East, the Pentagon has actually turned to cable sports channel ESPN for pointers on its drone data evaluation.
In a 2011 Pentagon-commissioned survey of Air Force drone pilots, burnout and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms were widely reported, as nearly half complained of “high operational stress,” and significant but smaller numbers of respondents were officially considered to be in “clinical distress” due to their position.
Following a UAV warfare briefing this week, Congressman Dennis Kucinich told Gizmodo’s Sam Biddle that American drone strikes go way beyond bad foreign policy, with much more far-reaching implications for our nation:
“Congress [must] reclaim the power of the constitution which it has ceded by its inaction. The use of this technology has put us in a whole new world. Whether that [drone operator] has personally transgressed the territory of another nation is irrelevant, because that is a US drone and it has violated the international airspace of another country. It commits acts of aggression against foreign nationals. It unleashes acts of war abroad without Congress’ knowledge or consent. The Constitution Article I was written to have the capacity to adapt to an undreamed of future — it encompassed the thought that the world would change. But there are certain principles in that constitution that are timeless: No person should be deprived of life liberty or property without due process of law.”
With 30,000 surveillance drones set to be released in American skies over the next decade alone, should Americans not be a little more concerned with the vicious and morally absent drone kill policies our government has enacted?
After all, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has just signed off on a new $443-million-dollar deal to secure 14 additional predator drones supposedly to be used for border patrol purposes, bringing the agency’s on-record fleet total to 24.
Predator drones are the drone of choice for combat strikes, and DHS is a domestic-only operation.
The U.S. government has yet to release details on how Obama’s secret kill list is maintained, what criteria is used for addition to the list or how death sentences are ultimately doled out.
It is bitterly ironic that, while Obama celebrates a holiday in which the pilgrims historically took aid from the Native Americans only to turn around and participate in a 200-year genocide of their people, our president grandstands for the cameras, upholding the value of a bird’s life to the public while privately, secretly signing death warrants on people who have never even been given a trial.